Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Tour de Ross Island

So after a long day at work, what better way than unwind with a flight to a penguin colony, right? That's what I've always said at least.  So one of the guys took a spill running yesterday morning and asked if I wanted to go in his place while he mended. Ummmm, yes!  Off we went once again. 

We had a great day. CAVU (ceiling and visibility unlimited). Calm winds.  Around 20 degrees.  So off we flew.  To Cape Crozier on Ross Island.

Cape Crozier is the largest, southernmost colony of Adelie Penguins in the world. There is a field camp there where research is conducted all summer long studying the colony and the surrounding ecosystem.  Learn more about it at http://www.penguinscience.com/ if you'd like more.

 Flying off towards the Cape, along Hut Point Peninsula and across "Windless Bight" at the base of Erebus which was busy spewing gasses all day yesterday atop is 12,400' crater.

As we flew the 50 mile flight, we went over the Terror Glacier (flowing off of Mount Terror--names after 1 of R.F.Scott's vessel Terror) ...these glacial crests as we flew along were amazing.  These crevasses were easily 200' deep.

 We came over the ridge system and back on to the wind swept backside of Mt Terror.  Katabatic Winds flowing down slope constantly grind the snow down to the exposed volcanic soil there.  Surrounding the rookery, there is what is called an ASPA (Antarctic Special Protected Area) meaning "no fly" in simple terms.  There are strict rules in place how aircraft and people can interface with wildlife.  I didn't have a permit for this trip so I was unable to got into the rookery.  There were no wanderers near the camp we landed at either.  The ASPA covers most of the birds, however they still wander around all over.  Hopefully next time around. 
 We landed upslope near the camp and picked up 3 scientists and about 1000 lbs of their gear to haul back to McMurdo.
Cape Crozier rookery is in the background in the fog bank 800' below us.

Our friend the Skua...

A nice view of the open Ross Sea free of sea ice, with a lone iceberg floating
along. For perspective, that has about 200' high edges and is about a 5 square mile
chunk of ice. 

A quick word or two on safety for the pax...
 The return leg we flew over the saddle between Mt Terror and Erebus called Mt Terra Nova.  As the Aurora Glacier flows off the saddle and becomes shelf ice takes along with it parts of the range and pretty much anything it wants to.  Below are some dramatic ice falls at the end of the flow.

Another flight through the Windless Bight on our way back to base. 
Hut Point Peninsula, Mt Erebus and the Windless Bight on the way home.

Another good example of where sea ice (temporary) meets shelf ice (semi-permanent)
and it's interface, kind of like a fault line geological terms.
Once again a great day at the office.  Less than a few weeks to go here.  Scary thing is I am getting the job (and like it too).  It has its challenges but all in all after the initial shock and fear of the unknown things are coming together.  Hopefully it continues this way as I continue to get more responsibility and knowledge of the operations.  

Hope to talk to all soon.  Off to another science lecture tonight.  Not sure the subject.  Hope its interesting! Cheers!

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